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CBC mayors renew regional deal

By Mark Squibb/February 17, 2022

While regionalization has become a hot topic following the release of the Province’s recommendations on the concept last week, four towns in Conception Bay Centre got the jump on the proverbial gun two years back.

“I don’t think you’ll find four mayors in the entire province as passionate about regionalization as the four of us, and likewise, our councils,” said Harbor Main- Chapels Cove-Lakeview Mayor Mike Doyle.

In 2019, the towns of Harbor Main-Chapels Cove-Lakeview, Conception Harbour, Avondale, and Colliers signed a regionalization memorandum of understanding (MOU) that had been a year in the making. That MOU was good for two years.

On February 11, the four towns met at the regional Avondale fire hall to sign a new MOU, which will remain in effect for five years, allowing it to run the course of the current council term plus a buffer year.

“Here we are now, we’re in the new term, and we’ve looked at and believe this initiative is worth carrying on,” said Doyle. “By pooling our resources together, we can become more efficient, more effective, more cost-effective, we can share our assets and resources, share our services, and become more beneficial to the taxpayers at the end of the day.”

Doyle, who noted the new MOU is essentially the same as the first, said the Avondale fire hall is a shining example of what can be achieved through regionalization.

“The SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) filling station for all the regional fire departments within our region, that unit is here,” said Doyle. “It’s saved us a lot of money by not every fire department having to have one of these, and we share the cost of maintaining it, so that was a savings to all four municipalities. Another one that comes to mind is the washer and dryer for the bunker gear, that is in Harbour Main-Chapel’s Cove-Lakeview. Once again, that is for all the fire departments here in the region. We all share the cost of that particular asset, but we didn’t have to buy washers and dryers for every fire hall, we can share that resource… It wasn’t too long ago that the Avondale Fire Department had an issue with their pumper, in which case we were able to provide them with a spare pumper to ensure they had coverage. That’s just another way that we’re sharing assets.”

Doyle said the four communities have gone in on a request for proposals for regional waste management, in which they hope to obtain a sole contractor to collect garbage.

“And we believe there will be substantial savings there,” said Doyle.

COVID has delayed a number of regional plans, Doyle admitted, including hopes for a regional fire fighting training centre.

One thing is clear, said Doyle, and that is that regionalization is completely different than amalgamation.

“What draws people here is all the little towns, it’s all those little names,” said Doyle. “You want to go to Come by Chance, you want to go see Conception Harbour. You want to go to Heart’s Content and Heart’s Delight, and all the rest. That’s why people come here. So, why in the world would you want to wash that away? You’ve washed away one of the biggest assets this province has, and it’s in its culture, it’s in its history.”

Avondale Mayor Owen Mahoney made it clear there is no intention to allow the regional partnership to impact taxation rates.

“Avondale will continue to charge property tax as it is, and that will not change no matter how many towns come into what we’ll call our region,” said Mahoney, adding of course that local service districts, as per the new provincial government regulations, may have to begin paying property taxes.

Mahoney said the councils buy products, such as road salt, in bulk among the four towns rather than individually, so there are savings to be found without taxes going up.

Colliers Mayor Raymond Cole said regionalization has made the day-to-day work of councils easier as well.

“When you get a new clerk, there’s a lot of information that nobody really knows about, and me as a new mayor myself, the paperwork, I’m thinking, ‘As a volunteer, this is taking a lot of my time.’ But thank God for the other communities,” said Cole. “We’ve being able to reach out and (Town Clerk) Karen McGrath here in Avondale, she’s been a godsend. Because we can call anytime, and I’m after dropping in there more times to get direction for our town. And sometimes you’ve got to do that. You have to be able to reach out to other towns… We all work together, and the door is open, and we know that. And I don’t think we would have that if he didn’t have regionalization.”

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